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Devonport Inn – Fore Street

Page updated 1st January 2019

aka Arcade, Crossbar, Reform, Vivo, Velvet Lounge, Crazy Horse, Moloko, Splash Bar, A Klass and Rumours

and many more!

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As the title indicates this pub has undergone many name changes in the last few years, which is perhaps, a sign of the times. It managed to hold onto its original name from at least 1828 (Besley) until the 1990's when it became the Crazy Horse, Velvet Lounge and many other names. Its latest reincarnation is as A Klass, while previously it was a gay bar, named the Vivo. It has a licence until 2am with entertainment every night - not much change there then as its previous clientele probably fell out of the door at 10.40 pm into the waiting arms of the Military Police!

Devonport Inn
Known for many years as the Devonport Inn, between 1831 and 1859 members of the Ware family ran the pub starting with Samuel Ware and from 1850 Grace Ware. For several years, Samuel Ware was mentioned in the Western Times, for raising heifers, wether sheep and fat calves for consumption at Christmas. He died in 1848 when the inn was put up for sale on a 1,000 year lease. It was described in the Western Times as:

Late the Property of Mr. Samuel Ware, deceased; With Court, Yard, Stabling, Cellars, Brewhouse, &c. Comprising a superior Dining or Club Room, 2 Sitting-rooms in front, good Bar, ditto Kitchen, 7 Bed-rooms, &c, &c. A good Brew-House, with the Plant, Cellarage for between 200 and 300 hogsheads of Beer, which are nearly full of prime Beer for which the House has been so long celebrated.

Grace Ware was accused of serving alcohol after hours in September 1859. The case was dismissed after it was found that there was an error in the reported time. Mrs Ware's tenure at the inn came to an end in 1860 when Thomas Upright announced that he was moving from the Dolphin to the Devonport in April 1860.

BEGS respectfully to apprise his Agricultural and other Friends, and the Public generally, of his REMOVAL from the Dolphin Inn to that old-established Public House, THE DEVONPORT INN, Fore Street Hill, Exeter; and whilst gratefully acknowledging the liberal patronage and support accorded him the past, trusts to receive a continuance of those kind favours the future. CHOICE WINES A SPIRITS. FAMILIES SUPPLIED WITH PRIME ALE. GOOD BEDS. An Ordinary every Friday at Half-past One o'clock.

Other innkeepers include John Roberts (1878), Henry Furby Pratt (1897), Woolf William Boam (1923) and Frederick J Thorn in 1956.

In March 1863, the whole of Exeter celebrated the wedding of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. All the businesses lining the High Street and Fore Street put up decorations and lighting. Thomas Upright displayed "numerous flags with transparencies". The King Alfred Inn, also in Fore Street hung Chinese lanterns, and the Western Times office displayed a star and crown illuminated with gas light. It must have been quite a sight.

Elizabeth Taphouse sold shell fish on the street and going into pubs. She entered the Devonport Inn in March 1869 and sold a bag of mussels to William Broad, whom she later claimed refused to pay for them and tried to pick pocket from her. He was acquitted at the Guildhall of the charge.

There are numerous records of disturbances at the Devonport, and in 1881, Charles Welcher, a private of the 11th Regiment at the Higher Barracks was ejected for drunkenness. He then assaulted a policeman and received 7 days hard labour; not the first nor last soldier to get into trouble in the Devonport Inn.

The wonderful facade of pink stone and elaborate name board has been ruined by the removal of the 'INN' from the name in a crude and insensitive manner. During the Second War, it was a popular pub for the services, and remained a squaddies bar in later years. During the 1980's and 90's it remained one of the few reminders, along with an old fashioned grocer's store, named Darch, just a few doors down, of the old Edwardian Fore Street.

Peter Hinchliffe remembers

This well known pub owned by Heavitree Brewery was greatly favoured by Irish workers right up to the mid 1980s when the Licensing laws were relaxed to allow all day opening. For years the police knew that illegal all day drinking went on in the pub, but there was little they could do about it. The rear of the pub is completely surrounded by buildings, so there was no way to see what was happening in the rear lounge.

When time was called at 2p.m. those with a thirst went to the rear lounge to cure it. The front door was locked, no one entered or left until the licensed hours started again, the front of the pub looked all deserted, so they were left in peace. I never recall hearing of any fights or problems happening during the afternoon illicit drinking sessions. Oh happy days!

The old Devonport

The old Devonport in the 1970s. Photo © Alan H Mazonowicz.

The Devonport in the 1950s

The Devonport in the 1950s.

The signage for the Velvet Lounge

The signage for the Velvet Lounge.

The Crazy Horse

The Crazy Horse. Photo © Sean Creech.


Vivo. Photo © David Cornforth.

The old Devonport sign was uncovered for a short time

The old Devonport sign was uncovered for a short time – circa 2012. Photo © David Cornforth.

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